If you still somehow inexplicably think that SUVs or crossovers are cool and minivans are not, it’s time to grow up, already. Toyota’s just-unveiled new Sienna minivan is a good, concrete reminder of why this is. The 2021 Toyota Sienna should, if the world were a more rational place, be a formidable competitor to any popular SUV out there. It has basically everything any mainstream SUV has in the same exterior dimensions, but so much more inside. It’s a minivan, and it should be proud of that.
First, and most importantly, Toyota’s press release confirms a vacuum cleaner and a fridge:
Designed, engineered and assembled in the U.S., the all-hybrid 2021 Sienna, influenced by the bold and robust character of SUVs, hosts many premium features: kick-open and closed sliding side doors and rear gate, four-zone climate control system, heated second-row super-long slide captain’s chairs with ottomans, onboard vacuum and refrigerator, a segment-first power tilt and telescoping steering column with heated steering wheel, a digital rear-view mirror, 10-in. colour head-up display and 12-speaker JBL® Premium Audio system.
Details are not yet available about the vacuum or fridge, but I’d expect both to be smaller than your household versions.
The Sienna hasn’t been an interesting minivan in quite some time, and has been in desperate need of an update for a while. The current generation turns 10 years old this year, and it wasn’t particularly compelling even when it was new.
The 2021 Sienna doesn’t feel like that. It seems like Toyota has finally wised up and taken some design inspiration from their Japanese-market minivans like the Vellfire, if not in design specifics, at least in design boldness.
I think Toyota has realised that to get around the idiotic American minivan stigmas, the styling of a modern minivan has to be bold and dramatic, aggressive and unapologetic. While I normally roll my eyes at overdone and over-aggressive-looking SUVs and crossovers, I think it does make more sense in a minivan, which has a greater idiocy barrier to break through, and bold styling certainly helps dispel the myth that minivans are only for the tepid and sexless.
In fact, I think the Sienna may have one of the better applications of Toyota’s often overdone and overcomplicated design language, and even often-troubling elements like that massive grille makes sense here.
The design inspiration is interesting, and I think a good choice for a modern minivan: the Japanese Shinkansen bullet train; a shape that evokes power, speed, and large internal volumes, all things you’d like in a minivan.
The character/fender lines on the side keep everything from looking like just a big box, and the sliding door channel is very well hidden in the rear window line. It’s clearly a van, a tall box on wheels, but they’ve managed to give it an athletic stance and it feels more muscular than just bulky. Overall, a good job.
Interestingly, this Sienna is far more American than the Toyota name would suggest. It was designed and engineered at Toyota’s facilities in Newport Beach and Ann Arbor, and will be built in American factories.
The new Sienna is built on Toyota’s modular TNGA-K platform, and uses a hybrid drivetrain as standard. There’s a 2.5-litre DOHC inline-four and two electric motors, one of which is on the rear axle to provide on-demand AWD.
Total horsepower of the whole system is 243 horsepower, and it’s expected to deliver 33 mpg combined. The power is actually down from the last gen’s V6, which made 296 HP, but I suspect the torquey electric motors may keep accelleration from suffering, though I haven’t seen numbers yet. The gas engine is also 41 per cent thermally efficient, which is impressive, too.
Oh, and it can be made to tow 1,580 kilograms, too, in case you’d like to take your pet hippopotamus to the beach.
I’m guessing it has a CVT like Toyota’s other hybrids, though Toyota’s press release doesn’t give any details on that.
The inside is what really matters in a minivan, and the Sienna seems to be doing that right, at least according to Toyota, who probably wouldn’t tell me otherwise.
There’s rear captain’s chairs available, which can slide over two feet, along with an “ottoman feature.” There’s seven USB ports (no mention if they’re USB-C or not) and 18 freaking cup holders.
Toyota also makes a big deal out of the cockpit design, especially something they call the “bridge console” which I’ll let them tell you about:
The Bridge Console is an innovative solution that is a departure from common minivan layouts. The bridge is ergonomically positioned high between the driver and passenger for ease of use, and elegantly connects the instrument panel to the centre armrest. This unique feature enables the driver to have a more stress-free and comfortable driving experience. The shifter and necessary functions are all within easy reach, along with cup holders, available wireless charger, and ample storage bins for smaller items. Beneath the bridge is a large open area for convenient storage of larger personal items such as a purse or bag.
It’s a design we’ve seen before, though perhaps not as fully realised. Here’s what they mean:
I guess it is kind of like a little bridge? And, I suspect they picked that name for the nautical/Star Trekkish associations as well.
It seems to have all the modern techno-candy as well: lane-keeping assist, blind spot monitors, heads-up displays, dynamic cruise, a shitload of airbags, foot-kick tailgate opening, all that stuff.
Want more details? Here’s some charts from Toyota:
The 2021 Sienna is a welcome update. Until the new EV Microbus arrives, the most interesting minivan around has been the Chrysler Pacifica, and the Honda Odyssey isn’t bad. Some more good competition in the minivan world is welcome, and hopefully buyers will get over their minivan stigmas and realise that, for almost everything, a minivan makes more sense than an SUV.
There’s still a lot of specs missing—cargo or interior volume, and, of course, price, but I suspect we’ll find all that out soon enough.